Day Trips around Pechon - Cantabria, including Llanes, El Soplao, Santillana del Mar and more

During our stay in Pechon we did some fun day trips, seeing some of the coastal towns, visiting a beautiful cave and eating some great food.

Day 1 - Lastres, Llanes and Pechon

This was our first day driving around Cantabria with a first stop in Lastres. When doing this you will pass Llanes, but we figured that we drive west first and then double back via Llanes to Pechon.

Duration:

  • Casual day (10:00 - 18:00) 
  • Short drives (less then 1 hour) between places

What to bring:

  • Towel and beach gear, because the two towns have nice beaches
  • Water / drinks
  • Food if you want to picnic on the beach / park / Paseo
  • Comfy shoes to walk the cobblestones
  • A sweater since you are at the beach and it might be foggy and windy, even in late June if you are early or stay later
  • Umbrella (just in case)
Who can come:

  • Kids will love the beaches
  • Adults the towns and food
  • Walking is mostly easy with a few steps and lots of cobble stones


Traffic is astonishing light on the A8, and it should be about 45 minutes to get to Lastres. We left relatively early in Pechon and got to Lastres around 10:30 via the A8 and AS-257 which takes you into town. We even found a parking spot right down at the beach, just before the harbor, right across from Bar del Puerto.

Be aware that there are maybe 10 spots there. You can park at the harbor, just a little further. Either are great spots to park, as you can easily walk across town (you do have to climb the hill) and enjoy the beach. To enjoy the beach, always keep an eye on the tides here. The beach does shrink noticeably when the tide is in.

Lastres - beach and town from the harbor


Our timing was good, and we did enjoy the beach, which on this morning was nice and empty. Next up was lunch, where we did a nice menu del dia at La Rula. For those of us not in the know, check out the menu outside. You will find a lot of people hanging out at the outside/inside seating area facing the parking lot, enjoying company and a drink or a coffee. That is the "bar". Lunch is served inside the restaurant or on the outside area facing the water.

We ordered - for 2 adults and an 11 year old - two menu del dia. Note that you get an appetizer, a main and a dessert for approximately 12-14 Euros, including water or vino. To know what to order, take a look outside or listen carefully to the waiter. Tip: really, do look on the board outside...

After beach and lunch, we took a short walk through the town. Cute, but there are nicer towns. So go for the beach and the food, a short walk around town and then track back to Llanes.

The drive back to Llanes is of course equally easy on equally empty roads. Should take about 40 minutes or so to get into town and park. Parking is an adventure, as Llanes is a bit more busy on the average day. We found that the parking next to Playa del Sablon (this is the maps location for the parking) is a good spot to park. The harbor side of town is where the crowd seems to start and thus park.

Playa Del Sablon and old city walls as seen from Paseo de San Pedro
Once parked, first walk up to the Paseo de San Pedro, which gives you a very nice view of the town and the beach as well a good opportunity to stretch your legs. From there it is a short walk to the center and the harbor. Both nice spots to walk around, sight see and sit and eat, drink and people watch. As the family loves Churros, we did actually stop and have Churros con Chocolate at the chocolate shop in town. We did this first, and were ready to walk across the harbor, the town etc.

Churros - Just get one Chocolate, not two!!

Our last stop was the beach, which does get a bit crowded during parts of the day. As almost all beaches you do get to rinse down in the free and working showers on the beach. Great place to have kids play in the water! All in all, Llanes is quite a nice little place to visit.

After that we packed up, and drove back to Pechon. again, a short drive and had dinner and a few drinks at El Ancla - our local bar - while enjoying the Fifa World Cup 2018.

All in all expect to - depending on how much time you spend eating - to use a full day on this trip. Something like 10 to 6. And this is generally a kid friendly trip, if you hang out at the beaches. So make sure to bring that towel and bathing suit.

Day 2 - El Soplao, Santillana del Mar and San Vicente de la Barquera

Next up, on day 2, caves and coastal and fake coastal towns, all within a short drive from Pechon.

Duration:

  • Full day (9:00 - 19:00) 
  • Short drives (less then 1 hour) between places

What to bring:

  • Warm jacket, long pants and sweater for El Soplao (it will be cold in the cave)
  • Water / drinks / snacks
  • Comfy shoes to walk the cave and cobblestones
  • Umbrella - you are driving into the Picos de Europa, so it might be cooler and foggy
Who can come:

  • Kids and adults will love the cave
  • Adults the towns and food
  • Walking is easy with a few steps and lots of cobble stones, and everyone can enjoy the caves (more below on that)
El Soplao is a very nice cave, but it does get busy as they cater to buses and the local Spanish tourists all know about the cave. This is the reason that you should book your tickets in advance, and I would - as we did - recommend doing this tour early in the day.

When you look to book, you will notice a few things. One: everything is in Spanish. Even if the main page is in English, booking goes to a Spanish site. Two: you can do either the regular tour, or the adventure. The regular tour is described here, but if you can and like caves see if you can book the Adventure. Note, check whether it is in any other language before you book. The regular tour and all literature is in Spanish ONLY.

Despite that language issue, I would still go on the regular tour. The cave is beautiful and it is a nice exposure to the underground world of stalagmites and stalactites and you get to ride the train.

Entrance into the Cave is by mining train

We booked our visit for 10:30. It takes about 30 minutes from Pechon on a smaller road. The tour takes about an hour and a bit, which gives you a nice visit of some 2 hours and plenty of time for the drive to the next town and start off with a reasonably timed lunch. 

That next town is the famous Santillana del Mar. Enough has been said on its lies and on it being the prettiest town in Spain. It is pretty and touristy and definitely worthwhile a visit! It does get busy. But nowhere near as busy (in late June at least) as many of the main tourist sites in Spain. 


Santillana del Mar on a quiet day

You can get to Santillana del Mar via a number of routes, we took the fast route using the A8, and then the scenic route along the coast later to get to San Vicente. On a busy day I presume parking is a nightmare in Santillana del Mar. We found a free spot just off the big parking outside the city, which had plenty space. Bit tricky to find, but here is an easy way:

Parking in Santillana del Mar
Take the CA-133 to Santillana, take a right at La Casa Solariega and you'll find the dirt parking circled red in the picture above. From there, follow the road and you'll get to the main paid parking. Veer right and you'll be in town. Less than a 5 minute walk.

We started with a lunch on the veranda at Restaurante la Villa. Obviously did the menu del dia here as well. Lovely for about 18.50 Euros. The setting is really nice on the patio and if you come early (13:00 ) you can pick a seat. Come around 14:00 and it is pretty packed.

After that, enjoy walking the town, taking some pictures and browsing the little stores. We spent a couple of hours including the lunch.

From Santillana we headed down to the coast and drove to San Vicente de la Barquera. The route we took goes past Comillas. It has a nice abbey, but didn't stop here. Stopped along the road for some beauty shots, but drove to San Vicente following CA-131. Takes about 40 minutes or so. But more scenic than the A8. As I said, plenty options to stop for beaches and towns.

Once in San Vicente, we parked downtown, just after driving over the causeway. You pretty much just need to make a right at Cafe-Bar El Manantial.

Harbor in San Vicente, but with water... go and see it at low tides!

Check the tides and hang around for low tide. Pretty amazing sight. The other highlights are the food (more later) and the castle and church. Make sure to check the opening hours of both, as they are a bit weird. We for example missed the church on two days... We did get some ice cream at the parking lot, which was pretty nice. And we came back for dinner another day (see the next section).

We closed the day with a nice shower at "home" and some casual food at El Ancla. We just love that place.

Day 3 - Beach and Dinner at San Vicente de la Barquera

Time to relax on day trip 3, and enjoy the local beach.

Duration:

  • Casual day (10:00 - 13:00 a break and 18:00 - 21:00) 
  • Short drives (less then 1 hour) between places

What to bring:

  • Beach:
    • Beach towels, swim suit
    • Water / drinks / snacks for the beach
  • Dinner
    • A light sweater and casual shoes
    • A good appetite 
Who can come:

  • Kids and adults will love the beach, the tide pools and the water
  • Adults the towns and food
  • Walking and a bit of a climb to the beach
The beach we picked is well worth going to - Playa de Amio. It forms a peninsula with a rocky outpost at the end. Of course you have to get the tides right again, or the beach will be mostly gone.

The beach at low tide

The rocks at low tide

As I said, a bit of a climb down (and up). The beach does have a few working showers for a good rinse. Bring what you need, while there are a few "restaurants" close, I would bring my own picnic food and beach blanket. Parking is potentially a problem in peak season, so check if you can do this as a nice long walk. Also keep in mind that the dirt road to the beach from Pechon becomes one way as of July 1st.

After beach time, we took a nice nap at "home", did some grocery shopping at Lupa Supermercados, and then we drove back to San Vicente de la Barquera. We did get to see low tide, did visit the castle and walked around the church - but the church was closed - again. Apparently closes at 18:00. Dinner was one of the humongous fish plates to share with our 3 people. We ate a Taberna del Puerto. The reviews are not great, but we enjoyed the food. It is all fresh, it is all good. It is tourist town, so dont expect super service, but we enjoyed it.

And that concludes day 3.

Next up - driving through Cantabria, and Asturias, arriving in Malpica, Galicia. Cool stuff to see along the road like Cudillero and As Catedrais beach.








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